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According to Old Navy, new clothes make a “new you”

Date: August 16, 2012 | Posted By: Stacey

I’ve never been a big fan of Old Navy commercials. The music is cheesy, everyone’s way too happy, and the clothing quality just doesn’t seem to match the price. But this month, Old Navy released their newest commercial, “New Girl” — and this one takes the cake.

Basically, the premise of this commercial is that “Sarah” got a new wardrobe for back to school — and suddenly, her teachers and peers don’t recognize her anymore. She is dubbed the “New Girl,” and everyone at school admires her outfits. All day long, an exasperated redhead follows around “Sarah,” telling anyone who will listen, “She’s not new!”

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To start, let’s talk about racial diversity in this commercial. All but one of the characters with speaking parts are white. In the classroom scene (0:08), there are five or six children of color — only one of whom sits center stage among three white classmates. (The rest are hardly visible in the back of the room.) Simply put, this is a problem. Old Navy is typically pretty good at creating racially diverse commercials, but this one just didn’t cut it.

These look like t-shirts and tank-tops, not personality transformers!

And about that whole “New Girl” concept… Call me crazy, but isn’t it a little bit damaging to teach young girls that their identities are inextricably tied into their wardrobe choices? This commercial implies that young girls have no inherent personas. They are faceless, character-less mannequins who undergo complete transformations with a new pair of jeans. It mirrors the very pervasive reality that our society places great stock in clothing choice — your clothes define you, period. They make you a hipster, a rocker, a prep, a jock. And whether you like it or not, wearing new clothes means people will see you differently.

No matter how many commercials try to tell us otherwise, new wardrobes do not make us “new.” Dropping twenty pounds does not make us “new.” Getting rid of acne, getting Botox, or buying fancy new shoes does not make us “new.” Clothes and beauty treatments may make us feel better on the outside, but what happened to teaching girls that what’s on the inside is what counts?

Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.




What Do You Think?

11 Responses to According to Old Navy, new clothes make a “new you”

  1. Gloria Hanrahan on 08-17-2012

    Haven't seen the commercial, but I would like to state that clothing can define you. And basically, in our society it is with just clothing. Look at the difference with What Not To Wear. Same person, different clothing and they really do become someone more reflective of who they want to project. I understand the point you are trying to make, but what kind of marketing isn't going to try to address the insecurities and pretend that if you use this product--they will go away?

    Gloria
  2. Laura on 08-18-2012

    Hailey-this post is hilariously brilliant. I legit have been laughing out loud for the past ten minutes releasing this article to my friend who is on the couch across the room-well said and I couldn't agree more. Your heart and soul define who you are - clothing and materialistic things can reflect parts of you but not the parts that are the foundations of your core values and being a kind person-which is the message kids should be learning-the commercial definitely does tap into a vulnerability off insecurities of kids suggesting a new wardrobe would make them happy-and quite frankly not only is it the wrong message but now they are downright lying to the children: a new wardrobe from Old Navy will make you sad, a new wardrobe from Saks may make u happy. www.thegreenwichgirl.com
    WELL DONE! Love it. xx Laura
    • Shane on 08-20-2012

      Says the unattractive.
      • Jennifer on 08-29-2012

        Hey Shane, that kinda sucks. Maybe don't be mean in comments on this blog. Like no other comment area on the Internet.
  3. Lori on 08-19-2012

    We do not have cable TV for just this reason. Why subject my girls to this? There is more harm than people realize. They are bombarded enough, I least I can eliminate that black box of suggestive advertising from my living room.
  4. Kelsey on 08-20-2012

    This commercial really grinds my gears. I mean I love clothes, and I do think that the way I express myself through my clothing and hairstyle are apart of me. They aren't the defining part of me though, they just help express some of who I am on the inside outwards. If I was "Sarah" in this commercial I would be just as infuriated as the other girl who follows her around all day saying she isn't "new" because I would just feel like "Wow, I've been in classes with these people for several years and they didn't even notice I existed, isn't that just a total confidence boost?" This commercial misrepresents little girls as being obsessed with getting attention because "Sarah" walks around beaming that all of these people suddenly want to be her friend, because she has new clothes and she is a new person. Yes, our style is apart of who we are and in general when we wear nicer, newer, things that represent us we feel more confident and almost "new" but this commercial takes it way past that.
    • Shane on 08-20-2012

      Why must people read soooo much into so little? It's an advertisement. Would you have preferred Priestly and Perry to be nude? Would that have been more to your liking? I enjoyed it, thought it was cute and funny. You must be very boring and bitter people with secluded uneventful lives. I feel for you. Did you're funny bones break when you were pushed off the slide in school. That's the problem isn't it? These commercials are drumming up a painful past. See a psychiatrist.
  5. NiNi on 08-20-2012

    I love clothes but i agree that media bombards young women to dress a certain way in order to be accepted by society. and no that school is starting many stores are taking their hit at young kids stating new better clothes mean popularity as seen in the commercial. no one pays attention at the girl that does not have new, better clothes. I saw a lot of this play in my young life and that is why i was always obsess with having the best outfit the first day of class. it defeats the purpose of education because young girls just want to go and show off their new clothing in order to get attention. I love your article and even though there is many ignorant people that make me laugh as i read their obvious absurd and little knowledge they have about the subject. I am a psychology major that advise them to go see someone. I love it and keep writing your amazing articles.
  6. Ramana Braye on 08-21-2012

    It's amazing how nasty and personal the comments are towards the people using their brains and rejecting the marketing tools in this ad, meanwhile the people targeted have only left well meaning and supportive comments hopeful that young girls will grow up without being adversely affected by the medias ability to prey on our needs and fears once they told us what they should be!!...that said, I did enjoy seeing Brandon and Andrea again!! I stopped watching when the writers dropped them!!
  7. Laura on 08-23-2012

    Ramana-I'm with you 100% - it takes far more energy for one to respond negatively than to do something good by responding to something else. We know the saying: misery enjoys company :) you said it best!
  8. Moa Calibria on 08-28-2012

    This is absolutely true, I really hate the whole snobby of fashion. Thankfully I don't have the money to buy a new outfit every week. It's all geared around money. 'If your dressed well you'll gain respect' - in a commercial world. Consequently, people judging each other's character by the kind of cloths their wearing.